Recognizing Leaders in Rural Communities

by Rural Ontario Institute 23. July 2015 11:08

ROI would like to share Samara Canada’s Everyday Political Citizen project – an opportunity to nominate politically-engaged role models and leaders in your community for national recognition. We encourage you to share your compelling stories from across rural Ontario.

Conducted coast to coast to coast, the EPCitizen project aims to recognize the diversity of politics and democracy in Canada, crowd-sourcing hundreds of nominations for political citizens and celebrating some of the many thousands of ordinary people engaging engaging within and outside of mainstream politics, in big and small ways. Each year, adult and youth winners and finalists are chosen by a jury of prominent Canadians like Rick Mercer.

Nominate a leader in your community here

Samara’s “Everyday Political Citizen” is defined as an ordinary person who makes a difference in their political community in big or small ways. Some examples of Everyday Political Citizens include: an inspiring teacher, political volunteer, or community advocate.

About Samara:

Samara Canada, registered as a charity in 2009, is an organization dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics. Samara Canada has quickly become a trusted, non-partisan champion of increased civic engagement and a more positive public life.

Rural Ontario Institute:

ROI is pleased to have Samara Canada’s support in an advisory capacity for our current Rural Community Vitality Initiative.  For more information on this project, contact Mark Cassidy, Project Manager

Stay tuned, as ROI will be collecting its own list of stories showcasing youth engagement across rural Ontario, in the coming months.


Moving Ontario Forward

by Rural Ontario Institute 20. July 2015 09:37

Rural Community Perspectives Needed on Future Infrastructure Spending 

The Ontario government is undertaking a consultation to determine how they will invest in roads, bridges, transit and other critical infrastructure outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas.   The consultation is essentially about how to stream the $15 billion the province has earmarked for infrastructure under the Moving Ontario Forward banner.   The $15 billion is close to half of the total $31 billion in provincial spending committed for  “community infrastructure” over the next 10 years.  The other $16 billion is being allocated for transit projects in the GTHA.  

You can learn about the consultation and provide your feedback here:

Why Should Rural Stakeholders Pay Attention to This?

The Ontario government has already said it will allocate dedicated funds outside the GTHA based on population.  This approach to distributing the funds fairly is a good principle and will help ensure that infrastructure projects for small towns and townships aren’t forgotten or swamped by  larger projects in cities such as London, Ottawa, Windsor and so on which may have substantial price tags.   We know that many small local municipalities are struggling to maintain the infrastructure they already have.

Apart from this principle, the province still needs to consider the pros and cons of alternative program design options.  For example, what are the benefits and drawbacks of a flexible, locally determined model where municipalities receive a transfer of funds and have discretion about which local priorities they use the finances for?  Alternatively, what are the benefits and drawbacks of a more targeted model, where funds are allocated to specific envelopes, ensuring they flow to selected priorities such as affordable housing, broadband, community transportation facilities or roads and bridges?

It is worth considering the implications of alternatives.   If targets are identified now through stakeholder consultations and become locked in, what would happen with projects that emerge down the road that may not quite fit the priorities set in 2015?  For example, this might include tourism/cultural infrastructure, recreation facilities, seniors homes, regional airport redevelopment, or harbour/intermodal facilities if those don’t make the cut now.  Perhaps incorporating some pre-set review points in the priorities over the ten years makes sense.   However, that might be unnecessary under a locally determined approach.

The structure the province sets up for the investment or transfer program(s) could have significant implications for the financing of certain regional initiatives that could benefit many communities, e.g. the SWIFT ultra-high-speed fibre optic regional broadband network.   That initiative has proposed contributions from federal, provincial and local sources – would this funding flow through as a local contribution or potentially take the form of a single provincial contribution?   Given this context, the province is inviting regional organizations such as the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus and Western Ontario Wardens Caucus to provide their input.  Northern stakeholders too may have already identified some regional shared priorities for investment that warrant a collective submission to the consultation. 

The input of local municipalities, who may see priorities differently than their upper tier cousins, is just as vital to designing an effective program.  Likewise, civil society organizations and non-profit leaders, who themselves are working on community issues such as affordable housing, funding for health facilities, downtown revitalization or collaborative  rural  transportation systems, have many insights to offer  on community infrastructure priorities and we hope they pass on their perspectives to the province. 

Finally, the province’s response to the consultation process might also serve to answer some questions regarding what the scope of funding includes or excludes.  For example, we are also having a consultation about “community hubs”.   Is this also potential community infrastructure?     What forms of infrastructure are we talking about here?  We note that some provincial infrastructure investments such as 400 series provincial highway improvements and the natural gas expansion program are explicitly excluded from the $15 billion pot under discussion, while others such as forthcoming investment in provincial post-secondary facilities are not explicitly excluded.     

All together we think there are enough potential implications that rural stakeholders across the province ought to contribute their thinking on these matters to the provincial policy-makers.   

The province is in the midst of holding regional consultation sessions and you can register here:






Ontario Trillium Foundation Lunch Hour Twitter Chat July 16

by 13. July 2015 14:51

OTF’s registration is opening up on July 22.  Do you still have questions about the new granting process and investment strategy?

Join Arti Freeman @ONTrillium Twitter Chat. July 16 @ 12-1!

Tweet your questions in advance to #OTFChat so you can get relevant answers.

Here are the details:

Where? Twitter

When? Thursday, July 16, 12-1 p.m.

Hashtag: #OTFChat

New to tweet chat? Just follow the hashtag #OTFChat on July 16 at 12-1.





National palliative medicine survey looks at urban versus rural

by Rural Ontario Institute 3. June 2015 12:50

Since the “End-of-life care in rural communities” post on May 27, 2015, a new national survey on the topic has been published. Guest blogger Barry R. Ashpole of Guelph, Ontario, has provided the following commentary.

The Canadian Medical Association has now published the findings of a national survey of physicians in Canada - the first of its kind - who provide palliative care services.

The survey found that for 84% of respondents, palliative care was not their primary field of practice. Family physicians with a focused practice in palliative medicine and palliative medicine specialists – 16% of more than 1100 respondents – reported working an average of 36 hours per week in palliative care. Physicians who provide palliative care as part of their other clinical duties – 84% of respondents – reported working an average of seven hours providing palliative care services.

The survey also examined the differences between rural and urban areas for access to palliative care services. Just 35% of palliative medicine physicians in rural and remote areas reported having specialized palliative care teams to provide care in their area, compared to 79% of physicians in urban areas. Formal home health care for patients wishing to die at home was reported to be available by 49% of urban palliative medicine physicians versus 30% of rural physicians.

Canada must ensure minimum palliative medicine standards are met. Different strategies are needed for rural and urban settings to meet the needs of the population in a realistic yet appropriate way.

Additional information about the Canadian Medical Association survey can be found here:

End-of-life care in rural communities

by Rural Ontario Institute 27. May 2015 10:24

This commentary has been provided by Barry R. Ashpole of Guelph, Ontario. 

Two important human service issues have emerged in recent years and continue to generate a great deal of attention in both the political and public arenas: 

1) the pressure on the public purse for the future provision and delivery of health care and social services to the population-at-large; and,
2) meeting the needs of the elderly, who are living longer, in greater numbers than in past generations, and with a corresponding increase in the incidence of chronic or long-term illness or disability.

 Running parallel is the trend in many countries away from institutionalized care to accommodate the preference expressed by many people to receive care and support in their own home in the event of illness or incapacity. The potential economic benefits of that approach have not escaped policymakers, presenting them with a persuasive argument that suggests a significant shift in the focus and scope of community care in the decades ahead. Against this backdrop is the increasing attention on all fronts given to the quality of care and support for those living with a terminal illness, both patients and their families or loved ones. People living with a terminal illness in rural communities and remote regions, however, present a unique set of challenges; compared to urban centres, there are significant –  but not necessarily insurmountable – disparities in access to quality end-of-life care.

According to the 2011 Census, more than 6.3 million Canadians were living in rural or remote regions. At 18.9% of the population, this number has been relatively stable since 1991. A trend in recent years, however, has seen elderly city dwellers relocating to spend their retirement years in rural communities. Little is known about the perspectives of people living in these areas on what constitutes a “good death” and how this might be accomplished. A critical consideration, supported, literally, by volumes of research, is the wish of most people living with a terminal illness to be able to die at home. At the present time, the likelihood of receiving specialized home care services such as palliative care are markedly low in rural communities and remote regions.

In Ontario, as in all other provinces and territories in Canada, there are barriers to providing hospice and palliative care outside of urban centres, for example: 1) the lack of services; 2) health professionals unfamiliar with the philosophy and practice of palliative care; 3) limited access to resources; and, 4) continuity in the provision and delivery of care. And, more often than not, these barriers are even more pronounced among First Nation’s communities. Unfortunately, there is little strong evidence to inform policy and service development. Models of end-of-life care, however, do exist despite a general lack of health care professionals inexperienced or trained in end-of-life care and the resources to support them, their patients and patient families.

There is a clear need to initiate a province-wide dialogue, raise public awareness in the process, and address this issue at the local level. Many of the most successful hospice and palliative care programs in Canada have had their roots in community initiatives. Professional education and public awareness – and improved access to information and resources – are critical. Ultimately, the goal is to effect change at the policy making level of government, but there is much that communities can do now to address this public health issue.

About the blogger

My involvement in hospice and palliative care dates from 1985. As a communications consultant, I’ve been involved in or responsible for a broad range of initiatives at the community, regional, provincial and national level. My current focus is on advocacy and policy development in addressing issues specific to those living with a terminal illness – both patients and families. In recent years, I’ve applied my experience and knowledge to education for frontline care providers, developing and teaching on-line and in-class college courses on different aspects of end-of-life care.

Introducing the Rural Community Vitality Measurement Initiative

by Rural Ontario Institute 15. April 2015 11:21

We are pleased to share an exciting new project endeavour. Beginning in May 2015, we will be leading the Rural Community Vitality Measurement Initiative.

Funded by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, this announcement represents a 30-month applied research and analysis initiative focused on deepening understanding of effective practices for quantifying rural civic engagement, social capital and community well-being. The initiative will also demonstrate methods for municipal evaluation of community impacts and social return on investment.

The viability and economic success of small towns and rural communities is closely related to a number of intangible factors which are hard to measure but integral to municipal functions. The overarching goal of the initiative is to assist rural stakeholders by undertaking projects which enable information sharing, capture practitioner insights and lessons learned, and facilitate peer exchange of best practices surrounding these hard to measure aspects.

The initiative includes seven research and knowledge transfer projects grouped under three themes. The projects will commence in May 2015 and conclude by August 2017.

Theme: Rural Municipal Leadership – Succession Planning
-Rural Councillor Profile
-Youth Civic Engagement Showcase

Theme: Showcasing Effective Measurement Approaches
-Tracking Citizen Participation and Engagement: Best Practice Resource
-Rural Case Studies of Social Return on Investment and Community Impact

Theme: Rural Quality of life and Community Well-being
-Rural Well-Being Reporting: Demonstration Project 
-Small Area Data Guide as related to the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheet series
-Rural Foresight Papers

As a first step, we are currently seeking a Project Manager. Please see the job posting and description for details.

We are looking forward to engaging stakeholder organizations and collaborating with key partners on each of the above projects. If you are interested in the above themes and projects and would like to learn more, please comment here or contact Norman Ragetlie, Director, Policy and Stakeholder Engagement.


11 more Ontario municipalities to receive community transportation funding

by Rural Ontario Institute 14. April 2015 10:14

With the goal of improving transportation for youth, seniors and persons living with disabilities, Ontario has announced a new pilot grant program. As you know, 11 municipalities were selected in March 2015 to receive up to $100,000 to provide better transportation services through community resources.

As of yesterday we are pleased to share the news that an additional 11 municipalities have been selected to receive funding. The communities of Dryden, Temiskaming Shores, Muskoka, White River, Waterloo, York Region, Caledon, Peel, Hamilton, Northumberland and Lennox-Addington will be receiving up to $100,000 for their respective projects.

“The government of Ontario is happy to help municipalities provide more transportation options to their residents. Our transportation investments like the Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program help build stronger communities by helping residents stay connected to their communities and maintain an active lifestyle,” says Steve Del Duca, Minister of Transportation. 

Please click here to view the Ministry of Transportation news release and to learn more about the selected projects. 


Employment of rural youth in Ontario

by Rural Ontario Institute 13. April 2015 15:57

This commentary is related to the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets about youth employment. It is provided by Carol Simpson, Executive Director, Workplace Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

From a Workplace Planning Board perspective, I am interested in the Rural Ontario Institute’s Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheet series.

Given our understanding of local data, somewhat surprisingly, despite increasing population growth in the 15 to 24 year old age categories, their labour force growth is not keeping pace.  Over the past year, we have seen unemployment rates among this age group drop as the number of young workers finding employment continues to rise. E.g. in the metro area of Waterloo Region, the number of young workers joining the labour force from January 2014 to January 2015 increased by only 1000, while 4000 more were employed in the same period. This is putting a strain on the already tight job market in the area.

Access to the Youth Employment Fund, provided through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, over the past year and a half may have had a significant impact, enabling young people to access employment opportunities by providing wage supports to employers who hired them.  It will be interesting to see if the discontinuation of this program impacts youth employment rates in a negative fashion over the next few months.

In some non-metro parts of my area, youth participation rates continue to decline, perhaps due to youth becoming disengaged from the labour force. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of a rural business rotating through the local youth population several times but they are not able to retain these young workers initially. When these young workers come back later, realizing that this was actually a good opportunity, in many instances they find the doors closed on them. With few other local opportunities they lose interest and stop looking for work. Businesses may have to reconsider not rehiring formerly unsuccessful young workers, when they re-enter the workforce at some later stage, in order to meet their labour demands.

With many non-metro region populations struggling to maintain and/or grow their labour force, youth re-engagement and youth retention are forefront in many workforce development strategies and initiatives across my area and other parts of Ontario.


Ontario municipalities to receive community transportation funding

by Rural Ontario Institute 18. March 2015 13:27

With the goal of improving transportation for youth, seniors and persons living with disabilities, Ontario has announced a new pilot grant program. As of today, 11 municipalities have been selected to receive up to $100,000 to provide better transportation services through community resources.

The communities of Atikokan, Terrace Bay, Papineau-Cameron, Haliburton, Black River-Matheson, Grey, Tillsonburg, Georgina, Simcoe, Pelham and Prescott & Russell will be receiving funding for their respective projects.

“The government of Ontario is committed to ensuring better access to transportation services for all residents, so that they can stay connected to their communities and maintain an active lifestyle. Our transportation investments like the Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program help build stronger communities,” says Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation.

Ministry of Transportation news release is available here.

More information on the selected municipalities is available here.


Town of Minto Awarded Bronze Designation as part of Walk Friendly Ontario

by Rural Ontario Institute 15. January 2015 13:30

The following is a guest blog from Belinda Wick-Graham, Business & Economic Development Manager, Town of Minto. 

On December 3, 2014 the Town of Minto was awarded a bronze designation as part of the Walk Friendly Ontario recognition program. This program works to “encourage municipalities to create and improve spaces and places to walk”.

The Town of Minto is a small rural municipality with a population of approximately 9,000 people spread amongst the communities of Clifford, Harriston, Palmerston and the former Minto Township and has been actively involved in developing a Walkable Community since 2005 and actually presented at the Walk21 International Conference on Walkability, which was held in Toronto in 2007.

Some of the initiatives that have been undertaken in Minto include:

-Touring other walkable neighbourhoods and bringing some of these sustainability guidelines back to Minto in the form of a Sustainable Community Guidelines for Development & Developers that was unanimously approved by Council.

- The Council of the Town of Minto has signed and supports the International Charter for walking.

- We have worked with University of Guelph Masters’ students to identify potential trail linkages and communicate with local landowners to determine a route.

- 3rd Year University of Guelph Landscape Architecture students were engaged to develop streetscape ideas that improved walking and cycling, these ideas then fed into a downtown Streetscape Plan that was unanimously approved and implemented by Council. This includes the development and creation of several public spaces in the downtown core.

- Minto is a key member of the Wellington County Active Transportation Plan process that links all 7 municipalities and the County to 49 trails/routes that connect into Wellington County and we have supported the development of trail signage standards and interpretive signage standards.

Walkable Communities are a key component of the Town of Minto Strategic Plan. We all know the health benefits of walking and we want to make it easy and enjoyable for our residents to be physically active but there are also numerous economic benefits associated with walkable communities.

a.      Higher Housing Values

b.      Attracting New Economy Workers

c.       Attracting Tourists

d.      Businesses are Relocating to Walkable Communities

e.      Walkability assists Retail Markets and Downtowns

Today more than at any other time in history, thanks largely to technology people are choosing where they want to live over where they are going to work. In Minto we are trying to build a community that has a strong quality of life, and building a walkable community is part of that. Generally, communities that are safe, attractive, environmentally sound, diverse

and culturally rich are not only desirable places to live, but tend to thrive economically.

It is no longer good enough to have decent infrastructure (roads, water, and sewer). Solid infrastructure is important, but if we don’t provide that quality of life element we will quickly see our population decline and we will not be able to afford to pay for that infrastructure.  This is one of the reasons why the Town of Minto invests in building a Walkable Community. The Walk Friendly Ontario designation will be used to not only expand and improve our efforts but to promote our community.